Five years ago, Eric Filia made a decision that would alter his future when he verbally committed to play baseball at UCLA.
He did so, he said then, during his sophomore year at Edison High, for many reasons. One, in particular, stood out.
"They have a great history when it comes to education and athletics," he said to the Independent in a 2008 story that told of his decision to attend UCLA. "Even though they haven't won a national title in baseball, my plan when I get there, is to win a national championship. My goal is to make it to Omaha."
Filia, who plays right field for the Bruins, succeeded on both counts, and his dreams were wildly exceeded.
In his second trip in as many years to Omaha, Neb., site of the College World Series, the sophomore played a huge role as UCLA won its first national championship in baseball. He drove in a career-high five runs as the Bruins secured the title on June 25 by shutting down Mississippi State, 8-0.
The Bruins (49-17) completed a two-game sweep in the College World Series finals against the Bulldogs (51-20) and ended the season with 11 straight wins. They went 10-0 in the NCAA tournament including 5-0 in Omaha.
The baseball national championship added to UCLA's NCAA record for team titles which now is at 109.
The Bruins have made it to Omaha in June now in three of the past four years.
"Like I said then , when I saw how many team national championships UCLA had, for baseball, there was zero," Filia said on Tuesday. "To be part of the first team to make history for the school in winning a baseball national championship, is just incredible."
UCLA allowed four runs in five games to set a CWS record for fewest runs in the metal-bat era that started in 1974. The Bruins outscored their five opponents, No. 4 LSU, North Carolina St., No. 1 North Carolina, and Mississippi St. twice, 19-4.
"Basically, this is a dream come true," said Filia who, as a freshman at Edison, set school records for most hits in a single season (53) and most at-bats (106), and tied a school record held by Jeff Kent for the best single-season batting average (.500).
"I was 13 years old when I came with my dad to Rosenblatt [Stadium, former site of the College World Series]," he recalled. "I remember everything about the experience, the houses across the street from the stadium where memorabilia was sold, the people. And here I was last week, playing in Omaha for the second time. Just unbelievable."
UCLA also made its way to Omaha a year ago. Filia was a freshman on that UCLA team that shared the Pac-12 Conference championship with Arizona but fell short in its quest for the national championship.
He was happy to get another chance.
"Last year, I wasn't really playing but part of the team, and I really thought we were the best team in the country," he said of the 2012 Bruins who entered the CWS as the No. 2 national seed. "We didn't win the title but the hot team [Arizona] at the right time, did.
Filia's former teammate at Edison, Kurt Heyer (Class of 2009), experienced the thrill last year of winning a national championship as an ace pitcher on the Arizona team that won the CWS title.
"I couldn't wait to get back to Omaha and step onto the field," Filia said. "To be able to play there two years in a row, and win it this time around, is surreal and a dream come true."
Words such as memorable and unforgettable fit, well, like a glove when describing what Filia accomplished during the Bruins' title turn at TD Ameritrade Park, home site of the CWS since 2011.
He drove in seven of UCLA's 11 runs against Mississippi St. in the championship series which the Bruins swept, starting with a 3-1 first game victory on June 24. A left-handed hitter batting in the No. 3 slot, Filia drove in the first two runs and final three runs in the 8-0 title-clinching win on June 25.
He went two for three in the final game, one day after he went two for three with two RBIs in the 3-1 win. His two-out, two-run single in the fourth had extended the Bruins' lead to 3-0.